In New Jersey, we aren’t the kindest, gentlest, or sweetest people you will ever meet. In fact, we are known for our short tempered behavior, our rudeness, and our speedy rush to say things and get places. In fact, if you are from New Jersey, you are probably reading this thinking, “Okay, get to the point of this post already!”
But we also love deeply. We are loyal to a fault and will defend the things we believe in even if it kills us or ruins friendships.
I suffer from a double problem in the attitude department. Not only am I from New Jersey, but I’m Sicilian. If you know anything about Sicilians, especially New Jersey Sicilians, they can hold a grudge firmer than they hold their handguns.
And, rim shot please.
Corny humor aside, I’m faced daily with moodiness, an ever pressing attitude, and the desire to put every person who offends me in their place. Ordinarily I can contain myself, but at one time a New Jersey/Sicilian grudge almost cost me a relationship with someone I love. Despite the pressing desire to continue being angry, I knew I needed council in order to find freedom from this thing that had attached itself to my heart.
After listening and talking with me, the pastor I spoke to asked me if I was familiar with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. My first thought, which fortunately I did not allow to leave my mouth, was, “The wedding chapter? Are you serious? It is full of a bunch of sappy descriptions of love that for some reason almost everyone (myself not included) feels necessary to have read at their wedding.”*
*Please don’t be offended or hold a Jersey grudge against me if you had it read at your wedding.
He told me he has his children read it whenever they fight with one another. He makes them read it out loud, line by line, not rushing to the next but actually stopping to consider each description of love and whether or not they are behaving that way.
He started reading the verses to me, one description at a time.
“Love is patient…”
“…love is kind.”
He paused for quite some time, indicating the difficulty of living with standards to each of these descriptions. He kept going until he reached the ones he knew I really needed, “…it is not proud…it is not easily angered…it keeps no record of wrongs,”
I started meditating on this chapter and most of the time there were days I couldn’t get past the first two.
“Love is patient, love is kind.”
But if I’m patient, then I let them walk all over me.
How can I be kind when they have and are continuing to treat me this way?
Some days, I skipped those two, because I knew the battle they would be for me. But the rest wasn’t much better.
“It does not envy, it does not boast,”
Okay, I don’t really have a problem with envying others, especially those who are aggravating me. And boasting, well, I’d have to be talking to them to boast about anything to them, nope, I don’t have a boasting problem.
“…it is not proud.”
Pride keeps me from doing what is right. Pride keeps me from being the first to say ‘I’m sorry’. Pride makes me want to cling to my anger instead of get rid of it.
The hardest part was when I asked the question that had bothered me from the moment he read, “Love is patient,”
“But what if they don’t act this way back to me? What if they don’t receive the kindness I’m going to give?”
The answer was not one I wanted. But of course, it was one I needed.
“That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t say that love expects these things in return. If you are going to live according to love, you have to do these things even if they never do them back.”
The Love Chapter has been on my heart for the past two weeks. I wanted to write this post last Monday and I actually kept myself from doing it.
We can make all the excuses in the world to not love.
I’m from New Jersey.
I wasn’t loved as a child.
I’m not in touch with my emotions.
I’ve been too hurt.
I don’t want to love them.
They should do it first.
But the truth of the matter is that we cannot allow our upbringing, our mannerisms, our personalities, or even where we come from to dismiss poor behavior. We are all called to live according to this standard for love. Though it may break our backs at time, though it may weigh us down so that we barely feel we can move forward, and though we may never feel the return of our love, we must press on to love as God loves.